Oil prices were little changed on Friday, but headed for a second week of losses as supply fears sparked by conflicts in the key producing region Middle East eased and the demand outlook in China, the world’s largest crude oil importer, remained cloudy.
Brent crude futures were up 29 cents, or 0.3%, at $87.14 a barrel by 05:05 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 36 cents, or 0.4%, at $82.82 a barrel.
While the markets were hopeful that the Fed would complete the interest rate hike process, oil prices further increased the improving risk environment. However, there are still some reservations about the oil demand outlook this week, as China’s PMI does not provide much confidence that demand will revive.
China’s manufacturing activity unexpectedly contracted in October. The official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell from 50.2 to 49.5 in October, falling below the 50-point level that limits contraction from expansion, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.
China’s services activity grew slightly faster in October, but sales grew at the slowest rate in 10 months and employment stagnated as business confidence weakened, a survey showed.
Meanwhile, it was stated that Israeli forces remained at the center of geopolitical concerns in the siege of Gaza City, the main city of the Gaza Strip, on Thursday and the attack on Hamas, but the Palestinian militant group resisted with hit-and-run attacks through tunnels.
The White House said it was exploring a series of pauses in the Israel-Hamas conflict to help get people out of Gaza safely and allow humanitarian aid in.
Both benchmarks rose more than $2 a barrel on Thursday, but Brent was on track to post a weekly loss of nearly 4% as of Friday, while WTI looked set to close 3% lower than last week.
The US Federal Reserve kept interest rates steady on Wednesday, while the Bank of England kept interest rates at a 15-year high. Stable rates supported oil prices as risk appetite returned somewhat in the markets.
On the supply side, Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter, is expected to reaffirm that it will extend its voluntary oil production cut to 1 million barrels per day until December, according to analysts’ expectations.
Meanwhile, rig count data in the US later in the day will provide insight into future production.